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Exclusive Interview: Larry Bowles- Manager of Chesapeake, Virginia

Interview Part 2

PA ALB:

When looking at the overall stats, your team had perhaps the most balanced hitting and pitching of any team in the country during national regionals. While some teams relied heavily on one or two pitchers and batters apiece, your team seemingly did not. Can you give us some insight on how the style of baseball that your team plays and how the team element helps you there?

Coach Bowles:

Well, to start the season, we knew we had a strong 4-man rotation in Cox, Ali, Adair and Bedi and that all three can throw 85+ with good off-speed stuff. But the emergence of Carter & Applin (again, both throw 85+) was the extra depth we needed to make it through. For example, Bedi and Applin pitched amazingly at the State level, but both struggled in PA. In their place, the other four guys stepped up and dominated at times. Everyone involved with the team this year knew from the beginning that having 7 guys (Clemmons also throws in the upper 80's but isn't really a pitcher) who can throw 85+ gave us the potential to be one of the deepest pitching staffs around, it was just a matter of finding the hot hand at the right time.

PA ALB:

West Lawn, the host team (who finished near the top of the Berks County League in PA which is widely considered to be one of the top leagues in the state) definitely gave you some trouble in game one. Why do you think that is and did that catch your team off guard?

Coach Bowles:

Well as I said earlier, my thinking was... I wanted to get through game one with Cox and Ali fresh. We were going to need James Bedi (our only HS Sophomore) to beat someone on the mound. If we went with Cox & Ali in games 1 & 2, then Bedi would have been going up against an undefeated team or be pitching in an elimination game in game 3. As a coach, I wanted to put us in the best position to win it all and obviously West Lawn's season record played into the decision. Regardless, Bedi is no sloutch. He had a 2.-something ERA and struck out more than one per inning this season. As well, he started against a then 26-1 Stafford team in the State Tournament when we won to advance to the State Championship games. In the game against West Lawn Bedi struck out 7 in the first 3 innings, but for the first time all year, he completely lost the strike zone in the 4th and we had a dog fight from there. With all of that said, West Lawn was extremely impressive. I was very impressed with Gehris who kept them in the game for 7+ innings on the mound, keeping us off-balance all night and contributing 3 hits at the plate as well. I loved that kid. I went up to him after the game that if I had 9 of him, I'd have a heck of a team. I can't say I was caught off guard by him or the Owls. I didn't assume we'd roll over them in a mercy rule game. I just instituted a plan and in the end, it luckily paid off.

PA ALB:

Besides one ten-run mercy rule victory, your team excelled at the regional tournament by winning low scoring close games. Is this something you've thrived on all season and did you think you had the pitching to sweep through the tournament?

Coach Bowles:

Well, any coach from the southeastern section of Virginia would tell you that if Cody Cox or Dean Ali is on the mound, you generally don't give up a lot of runs based on how they have pitched over the past 3 years in high school play. But the pitching we got from everyone else was rediculous all season as well. As a whole our pitchers finished the regular season with a 2.64 ERA while striking out 199 batters over 148 innings and holding opponents to a .186 batting average. I knew we'd be facing better and better hitting at each level, but again, I knew from game one that our pitching was our number one strength as a team and knew we'd go as far as they'd take us.

PA ALB:

If you're going to win the Mid-Atlantic Regional, doing so against a team like Brooklawn, NJ has to make it extra sweet. Your team actually defeated them in extra innings in game 8 as well. Was there a sense of nervousness taking on such a historic team (they won their 24th state title this year), and how did it feel to take them down twice on the way to the title?

Coach Bowles:

To be honest, we weren't sure how to take Brooklawn. The first day of the regional, the legion put on a picnic for the teams. Brooklawn decided to wear these shirts they made that stated all of their accomplishments instead of the legion provided shirts that all of the other teams had on, so I knew they'd be a confident team... and that our group of guys would notice it. When our guys talked about it though, they were constantly pointing out that the last Regional tam was in 2001 and that none of these players were on that squad. The part that I made sure my guys knew was that through my research I found that the majority of the Brooklawn team was on a high school state champion this spring and that they would be very strong. We got awesome performances on the mound by Cox, Carter and Adair in the two games and were able to hit enough to pull them out. The extra innings game was one I will remember for a long time. After giving up 4 ugly unearned runs, to fight back, tie it in the 9th and win it in the 10th 5-4 with the walk-off hit by Thomas Dushatinski was amazing. In all, to hold that program to 5 hits and no earned runs over 19 innings is an accomplishment in itself. The thing that suprised us and, honestly, made the wins more sweet was the suprising level of sportsmanship they displayed. Here in our area you would never hear kids screaming and yelling while a pitcher is trying to pitch or after every pickoff attempt and you certainly never hear fans call your players "a JV team." At the World Series I was very glad to hear one of the first this addressed by the tournament officials was sportsmanship and that no team would be allowed to yell and scream while a pitcher is in his delivery. I completely understand cheering on teammates, but none of us had experienced the noise from an opponent like we experienced versus Brooklawn. I was really most suprised that a team with such history of greatness would approach the game in that manner. By the same token, I'd love to point out how classy and amazing the Salisbury, MD team was. We played a great game against each other on the field and got along great with those guys off of the field. They were very impressive with their level of sportmanship.

PA ALB:

How was the travel out to Spokane, Washington? We heard some horror stories from PA runner-up Pennridge who took a middle of the night bus fourteen hours back home from Illinois after they were eliminated for the Great Lakes Regional. No horror stories for your team, right?

Coach Bowles:

Oh, it wasn't fun, I can say that. We lost that heart-breaking game and before I get to the dugout to clean up and get back to the hotel, the legion travel manager is talking business with me. For the rest of that Saturday and into Sunday morning, it was pretty crazy trying to get everyone home. One problem is that legion pays for just 2 coaches to travel, so for our other 2 coaches, they had to find and pay for airfare on their own. Well obviously you have to book one-way because you don't know when you are coming home. Buying tickets the night before or day-of can be a nightmare and it was extremely stressful trying to get these guys home. Also, because we were going home on a weekend day, instead of a weekday, things were made even tougher. In the end, our team was divided into 4 different fights through 3 different airlines. We had to drive 6 hours to Seattle to catch our flights and we were flown into Richmond, VA, which is an hour-and-a-half from our homes. This was made worse by the fact that our planes landed between 9am and 10am on a Monday morning... when parents are having to be at work. Luckily we have some truly fantastic parents who organized the pickups and drives home. Nonetheless, with all of those headaches mentioned, it is very important to point out that American Legion covered the costs of the flights and gave us some money for milage to get home. Although the experience getting home was rough, I thank the American Legion for everything they do for these kids... it's unique and awesome!

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